Have you heard about Great Jones Street? If you haven’t downloaded this free app yet, do it now (here’s the App Store link and one for Google Play). Billed as the “Netflix of short fiction,” GJS delivers terrific stories in a wide range of categories — crime, horror, romance, science fiction, and Western, to name a few — and lets you read them for free. What’s not to love? I was honored when they contacted me, and they now have four of my stories available on the app: “A Hopeless Case,” which won the Derringer Award for Best Short Story; “The Siege,” which was a finalist for the Anthony Award and the Arthur Ellis Award; “A Special Kind of Hell,” which appeared in a Beat to a Pulp print collection; and “Magpie,” which appeared in the first-ever print edition of Thuglit. Happy reading!
I was in Banff, Alberta, last week, so I missed some amazing news: superstar reviewer Oline Cogdill published her list of the best mystery fiction of 2016, and she included UNLOADED: CRIME WRITERS WRITING WITHOUT GUNS. I’ve been in plenty of collections, but this one is especially close to my heart. The concept behind it was to have crime writers pen dark and disturbing stories, only without guns in them. It was Eric Beetner’s brainchild, and while it took a long time for the project to find a home, in the end it found a perfect one with Down & Out Books. All of the writers donated stories, with the proceeds of the books going to the nonprofit States United to Prevent Gun Violence. As Eric wrote in his introduction:
From best sellers and writing legends to the brightest stars of the next generation of crime writers, the twenty-five authors here have taken pen in hand to say enough is enough. Gun violence has got to stop and this is our way of speaking out — by showing that gun violence can be removed from the narrative, and maybe from our lives.
It’s not anti-gun, it’s pro-sanity. And above anything else, these are thrilling crime stories that will surprise and shock, thrill and chill — all without a gun in sight.
If you haven’t checked out UNLOADED, I hope you will now. My contribution to the collection, “Swan Song,” is particularly twisted, and so are the contributions of the other writers, including Joyce Carol Oates, Joe R. Lansdale, Reed Farrel Coleman, Alison Gaylin, Rob Hart, Joe Clifford, Holly West, Thomas Pluck, Tom Pitts, and a host of terrific talents. UNLOADED is available in print and as an eBook; buy it from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, IndieBound, or at your favorite independent bookstore. It makes a great holiday gift!
On Sunday night, we had a special election-themed edition of Noir at the Bar in New York. I wrote a story called “In the Bunker” just for that occasion. I wasn’t originally planning to publish it, but I’m thrilled to say that it’s found a home online at Flash Fiction Offensive. Thanks to Tom Pitts for picking it up (and for adding some very appropriate photos and art). Happy Election Day!
Also: vote. Seriously, no matter what you have going on today, vote. (I live in a state that doesn’t allow early voting. Kudos and thanks to everyone who stood in those long lines in other states to vote over the past few days.) Need to find your polling place? Google’s got it. VOTE.
Tonight’s Noir at the Bar NYC is going to be a little different. Usually, authors read a work in progress, a chapter of a book, or a recently published story. This time, the authors — Rob Hart, Jason Pinter, Angel Colon, Thomas Pluck, Nick Kolakowski, Eryk Pruitt, and me — have written original stories just for this event. The (deplorable) fun starts at 6pm tonight at Shade Bar (corner of Sullivan and West 3rd Street), with Jen Conley and Scott Adlerberg hosting. All welcome. Hope to see you there!
Not going to lie: October snuck up on me. The one good thing about that is it’s already time for Noir at the Bar Queens! This Sunday, I’ll be reading with a terrific crew, including Dennis Tafoya, Rob Hart, Jen Conley, Dave White, Alex Segura, Scott Adlerberg, Greg Rossi, and Juliet Fletcher. We’ll be at The Beast Next Door (has any Noir at the Bar venue ever had a more appropriate name?), 42-51 27th St., Long Island City, right by the Queensboro Plaza station. The fun starts at 6pm. Hope to see you there!
I’ve been looking forward to this year’s Bouchercon ever since I heard that New Orleans would be the host. I’ve only visited once before, but the city holds a special place in my heart, because it helped me launch my freelance writing career. (I was so inspired by NOLA’s cemeteries that I had to write about them, even though the magazine that employed me never ran pieces like that; six months later, I quit my job and never looked back!)
I’m also excited because my story “The Siege” is a finalist for the Anthony Award for Best Short Story. (Have you had the chance to read it yet? Ellery Queen now has it online, and it’s also available through the Bouchercon website.) I couldn’t be more honored to be nominated, and I love that I’m in great company.
Here’s where to find me at Bouchercon:
Thursday, Sept. 15, 6:30pm-9pm: Bouchercon’s Opening Ceremonies will have a lot going on, and part of that will be an introduction of the Anthony Award nominees.
Friday, Sept. 16, 10:30am: Tor/Forge will be giving away paperback copies of BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS at its hospitality suite, and I’ll be on hand to sign them. I’ll also be dropping in on the suite throughout the day for Forge Author Bingo, so please say hello. (I may even be able to help you win a prize!)
Friday, Sept. 16, 8pm-9:30pm: The Anthony Awards ceremony will be at the Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way.
Saturday, Sept. 17, noon-1pm: I’m on the panel ”Once in a Lifetime — How Did I Get Here?” with Kate Malmon (moderator), Angel Luis Colon, Jess Lourey, Russel McLean, and Jay Stringer. If you could see our email exchanges behind the scenes, you’d know we’re all crazy. This is going to be fun!
Oh, what a weekend! Deadly Ink started on Friday night with a dessert party and panel, and went nonstop until Sunday afternoon. It was a busy time for me, because I was the Toastmaster and my friend Reed Farrel Coleman was the Guest of Honor, so we had a full schedule of events. And while I wasn’t as good about taking photos as I meant to be, I had friends snap a few for the record books. Huge thanks to Debby Buchanan (who organized Deadly Ink), E.J. Watkins (who interviewed me during our Sunday brunch event), Roberta Rogow (“the voice of Deadly Ink!”), and everyone else who made the weekend so much fun!
With Reed at the opening night party on Friday.
Part of my job as Toastmaster was interviewing the Guest of Honor on Saturday morning. Reed and I had fun with that!
My ”Roaming the Globe: Mysteries Set Outside the USA” panel with Roberta Rogow (moderator), Annamaria Alfieri, and A.J. Sidransky.
Introducing Reed at the Saturday night gala.
Reed making his keynote speech.
Conference organizer Debby Buchanan presenting Jack Getze and A.J. Sidransky with their David Awards (tied vote for the award this year).
Very happy to meet my Twitter pal @dimesleuth in person at last!
Sunday morning “What If?” panel with Jane Kelly, Reed, and Annamaria. This one got crazy!
Being interviewed by E.J. Watkins
Sunday afternoon “Coming Attractions” panel. L to R: Jack Getze, me, Reed, Bruce DeSilva, Jeff Markowitz, E.J. Watkins, and Nina Mansfield, who stepped in as moderator at the last minute and did a fabulous job. Not sure why we look so serious here…
…Because this panel was a lot of fun. It was a great note to end on!
I’ve been looking forward to Deadly Ink — New Jersey’s annual crime fiction conference — for almost a year now. Last fall, the conference’s organizer, Debby Buchanan, asked me to serve as Toastmaster. It was an honor, especially because one of my main tasks this weekend is to interview Guest of Honor Reed Farrel Coleman, who is a friend as well as an author I deeply admire. Where to find me this weekend:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 5TH
8:30pm: Deadly Ink opening-night reception
SATURDAY, AUGUST 6TH
11:20am-12:15pm: My interview with Reed Farrel Coleman
4pm-4:55pm: “Roaming the Globe: Mysteries Set Outside the USA” with Roberta Rogow (moderator), Annamaria Alfieri, A. J. Sidransky, and me
7pm: Gala Awards Dinner
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7TH
10am-10:55am: “What If?” with Roberta Rogow (moderator), Annamaria Alfieri, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jane Kelly, and me
11:30am-1pm: I’ll be interviewed by E.F. Watkins at brunch
1pm-2pm: “Coming Attractions” with Reed Farrel Coleman, Bruce DeSilva, Jack Getze, Nina Mansfield, Jeff Markowitz, E. F. Watkins, and me
2pm-2:30: “One Last Thing” Q&A with authors
Here’s the complete program. Remember, everything’s legal in New Jersey (to steal a line from HAMILTON). Hope to see you this weekend!
Is it really June 29th already? We’re halfway through 2016, and that means Deadly Ink is just over a month away. New Jersey’s great crime-fiction conference is scheduled for August 5-7 in New Brunswick (a short train ride away from New York, if you’ve never been). Reed Farrel Coleman will be Guest of Honor and I’ll be Toastmaster. Register before the end of the day on June 30th and you’ll automatically be entered in a draw for a $100 Amazon gift card or a Kindle. If you’re on Twitter follow @deadlyink for updates. Hope to see you there!
Yesterday, Lois Duncan passed away. I didn’t know her well, but she was one of my writing heroes. At the 2015 Edgar Awards ceremony, I had the honor of introducing her when she received her Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way: her longtime agent was supposed to introduce her to the crowd at the Grand Hyatt’s ballroom, but he passed away two weeks before the ceremony. I was asked to step in because I’d spoken so passionately about Lois Duncan’s books when the the MWA’s national board discussed making her a Grand Master. I’d been surprised to find that some members of the board had never heard of her, because Lois Duncan’s thrilling, disturbing novels were such a big part of my life in elementary school and middle school.
Here’s an excerpt from my speech:
To call Lois Duncan a giant of the young adult genre would be an understatement. A giant of the genre might write some 50 books (many of them bestsellers), have her work translated into more than 20 languages, and win or be shortlisted for numerous awards along the way. All of that is certainly true in Lois Duncan’s case. But she hasn’t simply been successful in the young adult genre; she was one of the trailblazers who created a new category of YA literature. You don’t have to take the word of a rabid fangirl on this; no less of an authority than the New York Times just this month acknowledged Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, and Lois Duncan as the three authors responsible for the rise of teenage-oriented publishing in the 1960s and 70s.
I suspect Lois Duncan had a particularly strong sense of what teenagers were interested in reading, because she was a teenager herself when she started writing professionally. She published her first story when she was 13 years old. By the time she was 16, she’d earned enough cash to buy herself a jeep. But if that sounds like the beginning of a charmed story, keep in mind that she was up against the censorship and strict moral code of the 1950s. Her first novel, Debutante Hill, was initially rejected because of a scene with a 19-year-old boy drinking a beer. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Writing that introduction made me think about exactly why I’d connected so deeply with her work. There was a vein of darkness that ran through it, something pulsing and real. Her teenaged characters didn’t live sanitized Nancy Drew–like lives, solving mysteries between sock hops. They were flawed and struggling.
If there’s one thread that links all of Lois Duncan’s works, fiction and nonfiction alike, it’s the emotional honesty and intensity at their core. Whatever she writes — from Daughters of Eve’s view of sexism and violence or (my personal favorite) Stranger With My Face’s horror-infused vision of unbreakable family ties — Lois Duncan makes it feel real by grounding these stories in the raw vulnerability of teenagers’ lives. She understands the keen competition and fear of ostracism and the pressures on all sides. Her books stand up so well today because those things haven’t changed.
If you’d like to see the entire speech — and Lois Duncan’s own charming acceptance speech — you can watch it on YouTube:
As excited as I was to make that speech, that couldn’t compare to what happened afterwards, when Lois Duncan walked onstage and hugged me. It’s not every day that you learn one of your childhood idols is warm and witty, in addition to being brilliant. Rest in peace, Lois Duncan. And may your books live on forever.